torsdag 19 november 2009

Mathematics of Free Fall

How can you a tell mathematically if a system is in a state of free fall? Answer: If the internal forces are zero, then the system is in free fall. 

When our astronaut Christer Fuglesang orbits the Earth in a weightless state, there are no internal forces pulling his legs. This is because the gravitational force acts on all parts of the body with equal strength.

Free fall is a wonderful state of no-tension and complete relaxation. Now you can experience it yourself for $4,950 + 5% tax as recorded by Stephen Hawking:
  • It was amazing. The zero-g part was wonderful. I could have gone on and on. Space here I come.
The back-side of this wonderful feeling of complete relaxation is that you cannot do anything
but continue to fall freely until you hit something and it's all over.

Mathematics education is in a state of crisis in the Western World and in Sweden in particular. In an attempt to come to grips with the crisis our Minister of Education Jan Björklund is now allocating $100 million directly to grassroot school teachers in order to find an example of inspiring teaching which can serve as a model. Björklund thus bypasses the whole university system responsible for mathematics and mathematics teachers educators.

Does this mean that university mathematics is in free fall? To find out I have made the internal force test. I have sent an appeal to the community requesting a reaction to Björklund's bypass, and have not noticed any reaction. It can only mean that there are no internal forces, that everybody in the community is falling in the same way. In other words: collective free fall. A pleasant relaxed state, but with the disadvantages listed above.

In a new Ph D thesis in mathematics didactics  Students opportunities to assume responsibility for their own learning with regard to mathematics. A classroom-based study in a postmodern era, the free fall is taken one step further by suggesting that the pupils themselves should assume responsibility for their learning of mathematics. Björklund's money could then be allocated directly to the pupils and thus bypass also mathematics teachers. It is clear that lots money can be saved this way.

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